The Problem With Forgiveness

Cross Nails

Probably the core belief of Christianity is the concept of forgiveness. It is the central teaching of Jesus and held aloft as the prime virtue of God himself. However nice a virtue it is in small doses, it is completely impracticable and worse still undesirable even if it was possible. Both the forgiveness Jesus told us to show to one another and the forgiveness God supposedly has for us are fundamentally flawed and rife with problems.

If I was to ask a random person what the most important teaching of Jesus was, they would probably answer the importance of forgiveness. The quotes are well know, “Treat others as you would like them to treat you” (Luke 6:31) and “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well” (Matthew 5:39-40). Now this sounds quite nice but is completely impracticable in life. Imagine if we really did forgive everyone no matter what they did? Imagine if we never judged anyone (Luke 6:37) Imagine a world of love, forgiveness and empty jails? What if we really not only forgave thieves but also gave them the rest of our possessions? What if our response to violent thugs was not to call the police but to turn the other cheek?

The result is obviously too absurd to contemplate. This is a fact that even devout Christians themselves acknowledge and realise that the core teachings of their faith are completely unrealistic and unworkable in real life. Now I would think that would make them question their beliefs, but what do I know, I’m only a heretic myself. You see talk of forgiveness is merely nice sounding empty words, the kind of stuff you put on fridge magnet, not the stuff you base laws and societies on. This means Christianity is at best a nice thought for the day and not something to live you live by. The debate on the role of religion in society should be much easier to resolve once everyone points out the obvious fact that it is impossible to truly base a society on religion.

Second of all there is the forgiveness that God is supposed to have for us. To many this is a comforting thought, as let’s face it; we have all broken the rules at some point in our lives (especially religious rules). So we all are comfortable with the thought of receiving forgiveness, but people don’t think about the fact that this forgiveness is open to everyone. Murderers, rapists, thieves, thugs, liars, cheats etc can all be forgiven and spend eternity in Heaven. The problem is that some people don’t deserve forgiveness. Our newspapers and history books are full of horrendous crimes that many believe deserve eternal punishment. The idea that perpetrators of mass murder (Colonialism was perpetrated by mostly Christian countries, to use one example and to say nothing of genocides in Rwanda and Germany) should receive eternal reward is a thought that would make many practicing Christians sick.

The core problem with forgiveness is that it completely undermines organised religion. You see the main purpose of organised religion is to provide various rules and a moral compass for its members. Rules are at the core of this (the Ten Commandments for example). However, forgiveness makes all the rules null and void. This is because I could break all the rules, be forgiven and enter Heaven just the same as though I had never broken a single one. I could live (what the Church would call) an immoral life of sex, debauchery, sin and cruelty, and so long as I make a deathbed conversion with an appeal for forgiveness, I shall enter Heaven just the same as the Pope. In fact, why bother following any of the rules if trespass will be forgiven?

You see forgiveness completely undermines the rules and therefore the meaning of the Church (I have the Catholic one in mind, but they are all pretty similar). You can live the life of an Atheist free from any rules, moral guidance or respect for God and so long as you change your ways somewhere towards the end of your life, you will be forgiven. Jesus died for your sins, so don’t just sit there living a good life, go wild. After all, you have a blank cheque. You see you can have forgiveness or you can have the Church, but you can’t have both.

About Guest Contributor

Robert NielsenRobert Nielsen blogs at Robert Nielsen, a blog dedicated to explore issues in economics, politics and religion. Robert was raised a Catholic, but in 2012 he lost the last of his faith and is now an Atheist (See Robert’s Story: How I Became An Atheist). I(Prayson Daniel) am being edified and challenged through reading Robert’s blog. Robert’s blog offers a ground for debating and discussing, in gentleness and respect, ideas and ideologies  that are not similar to mine.

Advertisements

56 thoughts on “The Problem With Forgiveness

    • Ivan, that is how non-Christian view Christians’ teaching. It breaks my heart but to be able to have dialogue with our friends, family and people we care about, we are to begin by listening. We need to help correct misunderstanding and represent Christian teaching in a way they can understand even if they disagree.

      • Firstly, Christians do not have a monopoly on morality and virtue. Athiests can be loving and decent people too. Their only so called downfall is that they do not share the irrational Christian belief system. And irrational it is. My earlier comment related to child sex abuse by Catholic clergy.

        The Vatican policy has been to simply forgive and protect these men by transferring them away from the scene of their transgressions. This has resulted in even more unsuspecting children being sexually abused. Case documents show some priest have been protected this way for decades.

        The problem here stems from the attitude of forgiveness that should have been an attitude of legal punishment. Furthermore, although the Church may view these perpetrators as forgiven the victims continue to suffer from the trauma for the rest of their lives. So victims of child sexual abuse who do not forgive their sexual predators will go to hell I guess according to your beliefs.

        • You are so correct Tina. Christians do not have a monopoly on morality and virtue. I came to know many atheists who are dearly loving and outshine me in their virtue(my brother-in-law being one)

          I am not sure I got your earlier comment.

          I am sadden at those who claim Christ Jesus to be their Lord yet act in a way which show that all but Christ is lord of their lives.

          I totally agree with you with the attitude of forgiveness and I do not full understand how it works out. Robert poured a lot to which I have being reading and hopefully with do a post in response. But first I want to listen to Robert, understand, stand in silence and let it sink in.

          • Earlier I made a general comment stating:
            The three components of forgiveness:
            1) The offender must be genuinely sorry for the wrong they have done
            2) The offender must offer some form of restitution to make-up for the wrong they have done
            3) The offender must honestly resolve to not repeat the offence again.

            Silenceofmind replied that this was atheistic and hallucinatory thinking. But I think even the Christian Church would agree with these necessary conditions. To unconditionally forgive is to foster unconditional abuse.

        • I for one am absolutely sick and tired of the endless finger pointing at the Catholic church and the situation of abuse by clergy AND nuns. It is a fact that abuse within the Catholic church amount to quite a small proportion of the abuses with the Church worldwide. It’s time – as Pope Francis has said – to put the emphasis on healing. For goodness sake, let’s all get away from Catholic bashing.

          • You sound like you think clerical sexual abuse is negligible in the Catholic church. Nevertheless, what exactly is the way to ‘heal’ the shattered and broken lives of sexual child abuse victims. What will stop the trauma and nightmares. What will restore the trust in those who appealed to the church and were not believed….please tell me the healing process. There are millions who would appreciate to know these answers.

          • You misinterpret my words – in ABSOLUTELY NO WAY do I feel clerical abuse, psychological or physical, is in any manner a minor issue. My point was, why constantly point the finger at Catholics – why not go for a few other denominations where it is rife, and some instances worse, ( if indeed that is what one needs to do ).
            As to healing. Every denomination within every faith should be working towards setting up serious means of counselling and therapy for every individual who desires/requires it, at absolutely no cost. ( Find me a church that cannot afford that and I will say crap ). And that same/similar therapy should be available to the thousands – and there are thousands – who, very sadly, are in the state of imagination, of wrongly accusing priests, religious, ministers of abuse of one kind or another. It’s a huge issue and it can be dealt with by all faiths, and none, pulling together. It’s being done now in the UK for people who were abused by the late Jimmy Saville, and, hard and difficult as it is, it is working and it can work.

    • Ivan, you are right. And the core belief of Christianity is love, the Love, out of which all other Christian beliefs flow. I often react in my heart Prayson that you are not hearing what people are saying.
      These articles and responses are very, nay VERY, interesting, and 99% informative, but I so often feel I ma talked at, rather than talked to. Blessings.

    • In an earlier comment above you stated that Robert’s article was a misunderstanding of christian teachings. The only misunderstanding I can find is that the quoted texts were spoken by John the Baptist not Jesus. Yes – reread Robert’s article again and ponder the accuracy of his observations.

  1. The three components of forgiveness:
    1) The offender must be genuinely sorry for the wrong they have done
    2) The offender must offer some form of restitution to make-up for the wrong they have done
    3) The offender must honestly resolve to not repeat the offence again.

    • According to Jesus the fundamental doctrine of the Christianity is to love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself.

      We forgive others so God can forgive us. That again, is according to Jesus, Himself.

      Your post is nothing more than someone hallucinating their own personal version of Christianity and then arguing against your own hallucination.

      If it’s own thing I’ve learned from atheists and their postmodern Christian brethren, it’s not to argue with someone else’s personal hallucination.

      • The question is: Must we forgive someone who is not genuinely sorry for their transgressions or is unable to cease from repeating these transgressions? Consider this issue regarding clerical child sexual abuse. Church policy (Vatican) has been to forgive the offenders which has led to the offenders ability to re-offend. The policy of ‘repenting for forgiveness’ has caused much suffering and tragedy for the victims of child sexual abuse. “Forgive them – for they know not what they do” is the hallucination/delusion.

      • The appalling lack of fundamental teaching within large areas of the Church leads to far too many individuals branding their own ‘style’ of Christianity and its Truth.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this article. I have a few comments:

    1. “absurd”, “unrealistic and unworkable”, “impracticable”, “undesirable” were very accurate words that you used to describe forgiveness. But Christianity is a not just another Abrahamic religion that provides self help and morals. It’s truth and power. We posit a theism and a supernatural deity. What distinguishes us from all other forms of religions and philosophical belief systems is that they are undergirded in 1) how you live your life, 2) how much you know or a 3)mystical experience. Christianity is undergirded by who you know. From an established relationship comes the supernatural power to do something radical and painful like forgiveness and love of your enemies. What undergirds other religions it the output of Christianity not the input. And just because we miss the mark now we don’t lower the standards for later.

    2 “main purpose of organised religion is to provide various rules and a moral compass for its members.”. A fair observation that does not include Christianity. As I established earlier what we do doesn’t give us access to God. It’s who we know. In John 6 followers asked Jesus: “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”, Jesus answered in the singular: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (NKJV, John 6:28-29)

    3. “Murderers, rapists, thieves, thugs, liars, cheats etc”. Yes, there is no hierarchy of sin.

    4. “The problem is that some people don’t deserve forgiveness”. Yes, you gotta ask yourself the audacity of such a claim. The audacity of Christians to advocate and promote a deity with such a depth of love. And then in your .1% probability of it being true (since claiming 100% to say there is no God is contradictory to athiesm), what would that mean for you?

    5. ” I could break all the rules, be forgiven and enter Heaven just the same as though I had never broken a single one”. Yes as long as you aren’t intentionally using forgiveness a reason to break rules. Paul discussed this with the Romans: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” His answer was “By no means” (Romans 6:1-2, NKJV). The love of God is such he literally says that the first will be the last and the last will be the first (Matt 20:16). The true message of Christianity is that whenever you are ready to truly desire to establish that relationship then your sins will be forgiven. This goes hand in hand with what Christianity is undergirded by. When you get that you are transformed by who you know then you should have no beef with anyone who “hasn’t been at it as long as you have”. And because you are forgiven then you can forgive someone else.

    Have a nice day!

  3. My point is that God does not just forgive and ask us to forgive. God is just and He offers full justification because He DOES justly punish sin in every case. The beauty of Christianity is, however, that instead of punishing us, He pours out His wrath and punishment on Jesus in our place. So our sin is punished. Then on the basis of the fact that Jesus is punished in our place and we are not judged for our sins, God commands us then to forgive others as we have been forgiven by Him. See Matthew 18 for a succinct example of how much God has forgiven us and how we are to then respond.

    Beyond that, the whole “Jesus dies for me and didn;t even ask if i wanted Him to” is pretty spurious reasoning. If someone offered you $10,000,000 would you begrudgingly respond that you never “asked” them to give you that money? Unlikely.

    • Yes the but the crucial point is that the people who commit the sin are not punished (which under any other system would be unjust). So I can sin to my heart’s content knowing that I will not be held responsible, Jesus will.

      Also how can God punish Jesus, seeing as they are supposed to be one and the same? Its ok if you can’t explain, the whole Trinity idea is a mess of confusion.

      • We hear noble stories all the time about a man who takes a whipping for his slave or a parent who serves a prison sentence for their child or sacrifices themselves so that their child can live, etc. and we call that heroic and self-less love.
        To say that we can “sin to our heart’s content” and not be responsible also is a mis-understanding of the grace God offers. See Romans 6 for Paul responding to the exact same question you are posing about just sinning our faces off to make God’s grace look all the better: the clear teaching of Scripture is that the one who thinks this way has not understood grace and is not saved by it either.
        Surely the Trinity can be a confusing concept and one no one would claim exhaustive knowledge of. Look at Mark 1 where Jesus is baptized for one of the clearest instances where all three members of the Trinity are present but separate at the same time. What we know is this: God is one being (Deut. 6:4) and yet He exists in three individual Persons, all equally God, living perfectly in community with one another. Rom. 3:23-26 lays out in some detail how God can punish Jesus (lit. Himself) for our sins and be both the justifier of sinners and just at the same time. Check it out.

        • But why did it have to take the form of a human sacrifice? God makes the rules, so why did he design it that way? If a sacrifice was necessary to appease God, does that not make him a vicious blood thirsty God?

          • The answer is easier than you think. The sacrifice had to be a human b/c the sacrifice was FOR human beings. Jesus was dying in our place, but His death was only the culmination of what He did for us. Jesus also came and lived a perfect life w/o any sin and so He also died as the perfect sacrifice; one we could never make for ourselves. So He died in our place but He also fulfilled the perfect obedience for us. This was all pre-figured during the Exodus from Egypt when God had the Israelites take a lamb that was spotless and pure, kill it, and place its blood on the doorposts of their homes so that the angel of death would “pass over” them when it came to strike down all the firstborn sons. Jesus had to live a perfect life in order to BE that perfect sacrifice for us. So, God wasn’t being bloodthirsty, He was doing FOR us what we could never do in the only way it could be done. If He just plunked Jesus down on earth and said, ‘Here is this perfect person who will now die for you’ it would seem dis-ingenuous and impossible to prove. No, Jesus had to come and actually live that perfect life and then die in our place AS a human in order to fulfil the Law for humans.

  4. One cannot separate belief systems from God, or God from belief systems. To say religion is all about rules is to diminish belief.
    I suspect ‘mostly misquoted’ would be a better way of putting it. If one takes the saying of Jesus literally then one is really not hearing what Jesus is saying – a common problem with large parts of organised religion.

    • Of course God is essentially to any belief system. But the day-to-day experience (for want of a better word) of religion is mainly in the form of following rules and commandments. Hence if you drop the rules, you drop the main way people interact with their religion.

      • Robert,

        The rules set down by religions are about the interaction between people and the interaction between people and God.

        It isn’t possible for people to interact with religion since religion is a worldview which guides personal behavior.

        • Isn’t possible to interact with religion? So if I go the Church and talk to the priest what am I doing? If the priests stands by the altar and says divorce is forbidden are you saying this rule has nothing to do with religion?

          • Robert,

            If you go to Church and talk to the priest, you are interacting with another human being who is exactly like you.

            Being a priest is that person’s job and vocation.

            The shared religion is shared worldview which includes culture and ethical values.

          • Robert,

            What you call silly and pedantic is actually reality.

            Atheism is so far removed from reality that atheists have redefine everything, and I do mean everything, so that it will conform with their hallucinated alternate reality.

            I see priests and sisters almost everyday. Believe me, they are atheist unicorn devils. They are people and they do their job as people and they practice their religion as people.

            The atheist concept of religion is just a your average nightmare fairytale.

        • I’m sorry but you seem to have stopped making sense and have instead resorted to insults. Did I somehow offend you?

          “Atheism is so far removed from reality that atheists have redefine everything, and I do mean everything, so that it will conform with their hallucinated alternate reality.”
          Coming from someone who believes an invisible Santa Claus style person named God is watching them, I find this insult rather hilarious. So by saying that only a tiny proportion of the population are monks (an uncontroversial point that you have not refuted), you think I am removed from reality and hallucinating? Really?

          “I see priests and sisters almost everyday. Believe me, they are atheist unicorn devils.”
          You do realise that I’m not claiming priests and nuns don’t exist, I’m only saying there are not very many of them. Otherwise your comment makes no sense. The second half is particularly strange. What are you trying to say? That the existence of priests is something Atheists don’t believe in?

          “They are people and they do their job as people and they practice their religion as people.”
          Why do you keep repeating the word “people” as though its central to your argument? Do you think that I don’t think priests are people? Please explain because you aren’t making any sense

  5. I find this an interesting comment because my problem with Christian teaching is the exact opposite — the idea of a merciless deity who would condemn human beings to eternal pain for sins committed in a finite lifetime.

    The idea of forgiveness comes from the conception of God not as a stern and impartial judge, but as a loving father, who wants his children to love him and do good. Forgiveness within Christianity is always within the context of the repentant sinner desiring to change his life, and do better. The idea that no matter how bad you are, no matter how deeply you are sunk into addiction to certain behaviors, you can wipe the slate clean and start over—this is a very powerful force for good, and has helped many people turn their lives around.

    Imagine a world with no forgiveness. Imagine living in one of the world’s cultures in which your primary moral duty was taking revenge. When would the cycle of hatred ever end?

    I agree that in order for there to be an orderly society, there has to be some sort of retribution for crime. And I agree that the ethic of Jesus is impossible for most people in its pure form. But there has to be some forgiveness, some limit on revenge, or else we all would destroy each other.

  6. I must ask for Mr. Nielsen to finish his post. What I read above clearly brings out the argument against one idea, but fails to suggest another idea.

    “Too absurd to contemplate,” I think may be too strong a declaration to convince everyone. Of the devout people I have talked with, I suspect some would actually believe that empty jails and giving up possessions to a thief would be an ideal to strive for, rather than an abstract absurdity. There are ascetics who will take the Bible message of forgiveness rather literally, and there are non-ascetics who admire the people who are able to take it literally. Even I, unapologetic atheist, feel that forgiveness is a necessary and powerful guide toward peace in this often painful world. So often I have witnessed the transformation of a misbehaving child when faced with forgiveness and love, rather than punishment. I am moved by the dream that if I could somehow have the courage to apply that same tactic on a larger level, that maybe forgiveness could reform criminals too.

    But convince me! Tell me your own interpretation. Forgiveness can’t be given up so easily, in my opinion, so please Mr. Nielsen, what is your suggestion? As a thoughtful person, you must have an opinion of the best role for forgiveness, and I’d like to know what it is.

    I also want to know your opinion of how the message of forgiveness among those of faith stays so strong if it’s without value and counter-productive to the teachings of faith. Even if you don’t believe, you must have theories on this. Take your theory and lay it out for us, so we can follow your thought process.

    • Well I’m sure there are monks and the like who give up their positions and would forgive someone 77 times they harm them or rob them. However, these are a tiny handful of people and not in any representative of the Christian population.

      If every criminal was forgiven 77 times (as the Bible says we should) then there would be chaos resembling Somalia. Murder, rape and destruction would be forgiven and repeated as often as people wanted. Surely this is a point that does not require elaboration?

      I think forgiveness is a nice virtue and we shouldn’t unnecessarily hold grudges. But the crucial point is moderation. It shouldn’t be taken to an extreme or held as the core belief of your life. For example it is good to lend money to a friend when they need it, but this shouldn’t be taken to an extreme when you hand away limitless amounts of money.

      I think most Christians simply ignore the problem forgiveness creates. For example, the most Christian part of the Western World is the Southern states of America. They simply ignore the notion of forgiveness and are in fact more vengeful that most other places. Hence Alabama is known for belief in “Guns & God” and Texas is home of large churches, support for wars, guns and the death penalty. If they stopped and thought about their religion they would see the contradiction, so like most people, they don’t.

      • Jesus taught about murder. Obviously, Jesus didn’t talk about gun control laws or the 2nd Amendment or even the American culture that celebrates guns and violence, though I don’t think he celebrates what we celebrate or trusts what we trust in that regard. For my part, I tend to agree that American Christians need to reform our own attitudes about guns and gun regulation, and I even agree that more aggressive regulation may help curb intentional and accidental gun violence in the very long term. But I’m not committing myself to seeing any of those things happening in the wake of the tragedy of the recent killings of kindergarteners and their teachers in Connecticut. The question that came into my mind when I first heard about what happened is the same question that has lingered, and it wasn’t about how someone obtained the guns involved. Rather the question that hit me right away, and has stayed, was simple and horrifying, namely:

        “How does someone not see the simple holiness of a kindergartner? How does a person get to the place where they can shoot not one, but several 6 and 7 year olds?”

        This is the question that stays with me in the wake of the shooting. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it’s the question, of the many that a tragedy like this spurs, that Jesus actually did answer with some specificity.

        “You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.” Matthew 5:21-22

        Ironically, it was the selection below from an interview with Samuel Jackson that hit a nerve with me and sent me back to Jesus asking my question again.

        Steven Zeitchik : [Django Unchained] has a fair amount of gun violence and can be a bit flippant about it. Does that give you pause in the wake of what happened in Connecticut?

        Samuel L. Jackson: I don’t think movies or video games have anything to do with it. I don’t think [stopping gun violence] is about more gun control. I grew up in the South with guns everywhere, and we never shot anyone. This [shooting] is about people who aren’t taught the value of life.”

        Of course, what Jackson’s quote only hints at, Jesus explicitly names: murder doesn’t begin with murder. It begins with ideas, with words. It begins with insults, with sarcasm, with snark, with shaming and ridicule, with a verbal devaluing of the person. I’m not disagreeing with Jackson (or Jesus) by saying that I think that the murderer of these children was taught to value life; he was just taught to value it very, very wrongly. And I’m not blaming the kid’s parents or classmates or whatever. We all suffer pain and all decide what to do with it, for good or ill. I’m actually just trying to let Jesus answer my question, which is as much or more about the future as the past. Because what we have in common as we look at something like this is “How do we prevent this from happening again, to whatever degree we can?” That’s what the gun discussion is about. I also happen to think it’s what Jesus’ teaching on murder is about. For those of us who call him “Lord”, that should give us great pause to listen, and some encouragement to have to help.

        I can’t help but notice that the people who do these inexplicable mass murders often kill themselves. Whatever else that says, to me it confirms that they truly did come to grossly devalue not only their victims’ lives, but also their own. When I think about how someone sinks to the level of actual murder, I have to think that the kind of talking that Jesus warns so strongly against was a central and necessary part of tearing down a person who could do such things. Again, I’m not trying to absolve or blame here—indeed, I think we have ultimate responsibility, not so much for the messages we hear, but for which ones we accept and nurture and build ourselves upon, and clearly any murderer repeats and builds upon some hateful things. Just as we can “cling to” the gospel and bear its fruit, we can do that with other teachings as well.
        But I want to hear again Jesus’ teaching on murder: ““You have heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not commit murder; anyone who does will be brought to trial.’ But now I tell you: if you are angry with your brother you will be brought to trial, if you call your brother ‘You good-for-nothing!’ you will be brought before the Council, and if you call your brother a worthless fool you will be in danger of going to the fire of hell.” I hear Jesus saying this: “Don’t try to only prevent or stop murder. That’s like trying to stop a freight train that’s moving at full speed with a heavy load. Stop it at the station. Stop your biting, mean words. Stop devaluing each other. That’s what fuels the fire of killing. Murder is born not with the hand, but with the tongue. You breed murder with your rude and vicious words to each other.”

        Let me be clear and say that I’m glad not very many will escalate the devaluing and meanness that is so common into physical murder. Most of us will just give tit for tat. We’ll just Insult for insult. Most of us will merely reap divorces, estrangement from family and friends, and a background noise of woundedness and shame. But in so doing we will continue to maintain a garden in which violence and murder will continue to bloom.

        As Christ’s church we are called to believe this seeming stretch of a connection between insult (which we routinely accept and sometimes proudly practice) and murder (which we roundly condemn and mourn).

        Further, we are called to model and live a different Way. We are called to bless even those who curse us. We are called to cultivate a fruit different from murder. Rather, we are to cultivate reconciliation, forgiveness, patience, gentleness and love. As we look at this most recent tragedy and rightly ask what we can do to move in the opposite direction, we need to hear and heed the warning of Jesus: murder begins with anger getting control of the tongue.

        • With respect, Robert Nielsen referring to monks ( which surely must include large numbers of people following similar vowed lives ) as “a tiny handful of people” highlights a significant ignorance of the world’s faiths in operation.

        • No offence Walk The Way, but your comment had nothing to do with my post

          Graywills, it is an obvious fact that there are only a small number of monks in the world. I have no idea how that can be constructed as “ignorance”.

  7. “I could live (what the Church would call) an immoral life of sex, debauchery, sin and cruelty, and so long as I make a deathbed conversion with an appeal for forgiveness, I shall enter Heaven just the same as the Pope. In fact, why bother following any of the rules if trespass will be forgiven?”

    In fact as you do not know when you will die the odds are you will not make a deathbed confession. and even if you do as God will know that is all you ever intended then that might not work. Also you have to follow Jesus and try to live your life in His way to get that unconditional forgiveness.
    Yes someone can Genuinely repent and see that there way of life has been wrong before they die and give themselves to Christ, but you can not manipulate God by pretending to do so.

    • Well seeing as priests try so hard to convince people on their deathbed there must be something in it. Even if I don’t wait until then, but rather convert when I retire, that still gives me a good 50 or so years of sin and debauchery.

      Sure it does require the conversion to be genuine, but I’m sure you can put in the effort for a short while. You don’t have to follow Jesus at all during your life. After all, haven’t you heard priests sing the praises of men who ignored Jesus all their lives only to convert towards the end? Doesn’t the priest always assert that they are happy in Heaven now? If you want to disagree with priests then by all means go ahead.

  8. @Prayson
    ”My motto is the same Arkenaten: In love, disagreements fall in their proper place.”
    Ah…so eventually Robert will make you see the light and you will join the ranks of common sense and become an atheist. Excellent
    ps Sense of humour is optional btw

    Oh, And you still have a dreadful comment system setup

      • Many have asked Prayson to change his comment setup but you what these Intransigent Crispyuns are like….
        I think his god told him this would annoy the atheists the most so he went for it.

  9. I think a core problem of the thesis as you raise it is that you relate the issue of forgiveness to ‘organised religion’ and do not make the distinction that Jesus made – the Father forgives equates with the individual forgives, not the organised religion. Forgiveness is a spiritual concept.
    Jesus was proving this with his ‘turn the other cheek’ principle. When one attempts this, physically, it doesn’t work – which proves Jesus’ point.

    • Graywills,

      No I do not equate forgiveness with organized religion.

      That is because organized religion cannot forgive, only God and human beings can forgive.

      Truthfully I have no idea what you are talking about.

      My point is that forgiveness does not mean that the offender gets off Scott free. For every offense there must be a reckoning.

      In the secular environment criminals are processed by the justice system. The purpose of the justice system is to administer the reckoning to criminal offenders.

      That happens whether they are forgiven by the victims or not. Jesus says forgive. But he does not say that offenders are free from their reckoning.

    • I think the comment was addressed to me. Organised religion and God are separate, but my point was that they are in contradiction with each other. Religion is all about rules and if God is all about forgiveness, then God negates organised religion. You can have forgiveness or organised religion but not both.

      “When one attempts this, physically, it doesn’t work – which proves Jesus’ point.”
      What was his point then? That the basis for Christianity doesn’t work? If turning the other cheek is impractical then why is it the most quoted of Jesus’ sayings?

  10. Your understanding of Catholicism is in error. Catholics believe what Jesus taught: To gain eternal life one must follow the Commandments.

    That is, great effort must be made to live a life of virtue all the time.

    Your analysis of justice is also in error.

    Jesus’ teachings do not forbid a robust justice system. In fact they demand it.

    Forgiveness does not relieve the offender from his reckoning. If the offender steals, he must be punished even though he be forgiven.

    • In what way did I misunderstand Catholicism?

      There’s more to being a Catholic than just following the Commandments, after all there is also confession. In fact I was under the impression that forgiveness is held higher in Catholicism than in Protestant religions (I have not studied Protestantism so I don’t know for sure).

      “Your analysis of justice is also in error.”
      Please explain why (rather than just stating so)

      “Forgiveness does not relieve the offender from his reckoning. If the offender steals, he must be punished even though he be forgiven.”
      That is what common sense dictates but not Christianity. You can have your own morals but you cannot claim they are the morals of Jesus or the church. A thief is either punished or forgiven. You cannot forgive someone and then continue to punish them as that would negate the whole meaning of forgiveness.

      You cannot have it both ways, you must choose.

  11. Robert –
    i found your post intriguing and thoughtful. I appreciate the interaction you have with the concept of forgiveness from a Judeo-Christian perspective.
    There are many points i would love to talk through with you, but, let’s suffice for just one here.
    My question for you is: on what basis does God both offer forgiveness to sinners and ask us to forgive others? Does God just “forgive” and ask us to do the same, or does He offer some justification or basis for that forgiveness?

    • “My question for you is: on what basis does God both offer forgiveness to sinners and ask us to forgive others? ”
      Well I’m an Atheist so I don’t believe in God . . .

      I suppose repentance is a requirement, but that still is unacceptable. Does he offer justification? Not really, he is supposed to be all-merciful so no reason is needed. Also like most parts of religion its based on a commandment, Jesus died for our sins whether we like it or not. No one asked if that was what we wanted, but we have to deal with it anyway.

      • My point is that God does not just forgive and ask us to forgive. God is just and He offers full justification because He DOES justly punish sin in every case. The beauty of Christianity is, however, that instead of punishing us, He pours out His wrath and punishment on Jesus in our place. So our sin is punished. Then on the basis of the fact that Jesus is punished in our place and we are not judged for our sins, God commands us then to forgive others as we have been forgiven by Him. See Matthew 18 for a succinct example of how much God has forgiven us and how we are to then respond.

        Beyond that, the whole “Jesus dies for me and didn;t even ask if i wanted Him to” is pretty spurious reasoning. If someone offered you $10,000,000 would you begrudgingly respond that you never “asked” them to give you that money? Unlikely.

  12. Right on, but…. forgiveness is such a big word and fraught with contradictions. As preached and practiced by Christians is does exactly what you rant against. I suggest it as one of my Twelve Easy Emotional Fitness Exercises, but am clear it mainly serves to keep you from doing drinking poison yourself and expecting it to kill the person who hurt you.

    Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or exposing yourself to ongoing hurt. Hurt and anger are signals of wrongs and warnings to take care. So the messages need to be heeded. Lincoln claimed to destroy his enemies by making them his friends. Not very realistic and I suspect, he also kept former enemies close and never trusted them completely.

    I think Bishop Tutu’s idea of forgiveness, think he got it elsewhere, has merit. He sees it a decision not to seek revenge. Defend yourself of course, but rule out revenge. The value in that type of forgiveness for me is taking pleasure in being a bit higher on the moral hill of life than the person who hurt me. Not always comforting but of some value.

        • Arkenaten, my reasons are open to why I am honored to have Robert contribute on my blog. I want my fellow Christians to listen to opposing views and in the context of love, respect and gentleness discuss together.

          I do not consider a person holding a different view my enemy. I chose not to bow down to new atheists and immatured theists agendas, which is against the pursuit of knowledge, as it destroy common bridges of respect, tolerance and health dialogues.

          My motto is the same Arkenaten: In love, disagreements fall in their proper place.

  13. Reblogged this on Robert Nielsen and commented:
    One of my favourite bloggers to debate with is Prayson Daniel, an Evangelical Christian who I have been interacting with since I first set up my blog. Despite our differences we still respect each other and keep it civil. Surprisingly, he was open enough to ask me to write a guest post on his blog and an Atheist one at that. Fair play to him for that and his blog is well work checking out regardless of your religious beliefs.

Comments are closed.